Hello again. No, you are not hallucinating. This is, in fact, a second post in the same week. As you read this, I’m probably on my way to my parents’ house in sunny South Africa. I was planning to talk more about language, but as the year draws to a close, I’ve found my mind doting on memories from times past in South Africa. So I’ve decided to stop fighting it and talk about home.
Over the past few months, I’ve only felt extremely homesick on two occasions: Once in October when my brain had trouble reconciling the fact that I won’t be able to celebrate my nieces first birthday this holiday and secondly, recently during December, as I have prepared to go home this week. On the first occasion, I felt a mix of extreme emotions, mainly leaning between anger and sadness. The most recent bit of homesickness has been different, and more like what I had originally imagined homesickness should feel like. It’s taken the form of a dull heartache when I think about all the things I’m already missing out on this December holiday season. So in the spirit of keeping with my theme of ex-pat life, here are a few things you might find yourself looking forward to when going home.
Food from home is delicious yal, in all the ways that really matter. In fact, traditional South African food is so delicious that you might find yourself craving funeral food on a random rainy day (if you haven’t been to a black funeral you might not understand).
Living in one of the world’s more famed foodie nations does not negate or nullify this excitement. Getting to explore and try all types of Japanese foods has been fun and sometimes tasty, but nothing blesses one’s soul like a hearty home-cooked meal. Living in Pretoria for 10 years got me accustomed to living away from home so I am no stranger to being away from a good meal. I enjoy my own cooking but unfortunately since I usually cook by following my heart and not recipes, I never really get the same flavours I enjoyed eating while growing up under my parents’ roof. It doesn’t just end there. Fast-food chains may be the same across the world but trust me when I say they don’t serve the same kind of food. The first thing I realised when I took my first bite of Japanese KFC is that this was not the same recipe of 11 herbs and spices that I had grown up loving in South Africa.
The spices in Japanese KFC are weighted differently, meaning instead of getting nice spicy washes of pepper and salt over your tongue, you are more likely to pick up more on the sweeter spices in the recipe. The same is true for Japanese McDonalds. Everything here, or maybe it’s just Kyushu area, is on the sweet side and that’s just not my vibe. Back in 2015 when I went to Kenya as part of training for the Google Ambassador Programme, I realised just how obsessed we as a South African people are with salt. Kenyan fast-food outlets barely put salt in their food and I remember how this triggered us as a group. The South African GSAs could be heard at every single mealtime complaining and asking for more salt. As I head home now, my belly is ready and I have a list as long as my arm of foods that someone is going to need to treat me to.
I opted to get a bicycle when I first got to Japan, mostly for fitness reasons but also because I needed a break from driving after having done it every day for 7 years. I’ve driven on one occasion since coming to Japan and it’s reinforced my decision. Driving in a foreign country is always going to be different with a mirage of challenges that you’ll need to overcome. For me in Japan, those challenges include the super tiny streets and the signage that is mostly written in Japanese.
I sold my car before coming to Japan so I am under no illusion about the amount of time that I’ll be spending behind the wheel. But when I do get behind the wheel, I look forward to enjoying the beautiful open roads that South Africa has to offer. There’s just something about being able to drive in a 5 lane highway at 120km/h that just get’s the blood pumping right.
It’s winter in Japan right now and I am not enjoying it. Unfortunately, the way that the JET programme is set up, this is the second time I am having to live through winter in the year of our Lord 2019. This is highly unnatural and undesirable. Don’t get me wrong, I love winter when I work in an office. Working in Japan as an assistant teacher has rudely taken me back to a time when I used to hate winter: My school days. When you work in an office during winter, it’s nice because you rarely have to face off with the elements. The worst of winter that I faced earlier this year was that 30 seconds between leaving my house and jumping into my car and later jumping out of my car to go into the elevator up to the nice warm gym. Temperatures in South Africa probably dropped to -2 on the worst morning, but it was okay because I was in my air-conditioned car. In Japan, I do not have this luxury. As a teacher, I have to move between classes which means I have to weather the weather every day. You would think the classroom would become my refuge but the reality is that different teachers have different approaches to winter (let’s just say some enjoy letting the breeze in, in the hopes that the flu will be carried away by the draft – this is not working out well).
Well, luckily I’m heading home now and it’s summertime! I’m looking forward to all the good things that come with a South African summer. I’m going to get a nice tan. I’m going to eat some delicious watermelon. I’m going to devour some tasty ice-cream. I’m going to enjoy a lekker braai. It’s going to be great! And my biological clock will finally be happy that I’m back in the right hemisphere.
Saving the best or most obvious for last. I’m really looking forward to seeing my people yal, human, non-blood related and doggos alike. Distance does make the heart grow fonder. Technology has been great for keeping us all in touch but there’s nothing that will ever replace the connections that proximity brings.
Here’s to hoping you guys have a bomb ass holiday season. Even though I’m starting mine off a week and a bit late this year, I’m glad to at least be able to spend these few days with loved ones. See you next year guys.